Sunday, 30 January 2011

Satellites near the Pleiades

Yesterday evening (Saturday 29 January) some satellites seemed to be in love with the Pleiades. In a somewhat hazy sky, I observed Lacrosse 3 (97-064A) cruising near the Pleiades and Hyades in twilight, and half an hour later watched the NOSS 3-4 duo (07-027 A & C) cruise right through the Pleiades.

Below are the resulting images. The top image of the NOSS duo cruising through the Pleiades (movement is from top to bottom, with 07-027A leading) was made using the Canon EF 100/2.8 Macro USM lens: the images of Lacrosse 3 were made using the EF 50/2.5 Macro lens.

click images to enlarge

The FIA Radar 1 (10-046A) was imaged as well. Unlike a few nights ago, it did not flare.

The previous night had a better quality sky, so I targetted a few geostationary satellites low above the horizon. Classified geostationary targets imaged were PAN (09-047A), Mentor 2 (98-029A), Mentor 4/USA 202 (09-001A) and the Milstar 5 r/b (02-001B). A number of commercial geostationary satellites were captured as well.

Below image, taken with the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 2.8/180mm, shows PAN with the nearby commercial geostationary Yamal 202 (03-053A).

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The image below, taken with the EF 2.5/50mm Macro, shows Mentor 2, with the stars of Orion's belt and Orion's nebula M42 at left:

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I also accidentally captured a mag. +2.5 sporadic meteor in one of the images taken with the Carl Zeiss 180 mm (FOV only 5 x 7 degrees!):

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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

FIA Radar 1 flaring!

Yesterday evening I had a short clear window of opportunity before clouds rolled in. I tried in vain to spot Nanosail-D in deep twilight, and next targetted the FIA Radar 1 (10-046A) again.

Much to my surprise (as I had not see it do that before), it flared twice. At about 17:54:11 UTC (25 Jan) the first brief but bright flare, to mag. -1 occurred. Unfortunately, I was re-aiming the camera at that moment. The satellite flared again however, to mag. +0.5, at 17:54:37.0 UTC, and this time the camera was photographing. Below is the resulting image, and the brightness curve derived from it. It are actually two flares, as a slightly fainter flare at 17:54:35.7 preceeds the main flare.

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click diagram to enlarge

Later that evening, during a second brief period of clear sky, I imaged Mentor 2 (98-029A) in Orion.

I also observed on the 20th (The FIA Radar 1 again, and Milstar 5r (02 001B)) and the 22nd (USA 200, 08-010A), during short clear spells.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The FIA Radar, USA 179 (SDS 3-3) and more

On the 5th, 9th, 10th and on the 16th of January, the skies shortly cleared in the evening and I observed the FIA 1 Radar (10-046A) making some nice passes through the winter sky. On the 16th it was a particularly close race with clouds coming in (the last image in the series has clouds in the image frame).

Below are two images: one from the 10th showing the FIA 1 Radar passing close to the Pleiades; the other showing it passing through the alpha Persei association on Jan 16th.

click images to enlarge

I also observed the Molniya orbit satellite USA 179 (SDS 3-3) on the 16th, which was close to the alpha Persei association too. As it was too faint for the 50mm lens, I used the Carl Zeiss Jena 180mm lens for it (brightest star in image is alpha Persei):

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Other objects observed include PAN (09-047A) on the 9th of January. It is still in the fixed position at 49.0 E where it is since December 24 (see earlier post here). That same evening, Mentor 4 (USA 202), Mentor 2 and the Milstar 5 r/b were observed as well. A flashing H2A rocket, 06-059A, was captured as a stray. On the 5th of January, the IGS R2 r/b was captured in twilight, being very fast and very bright.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

OT - A Space related Patch?

As some of you know, I not only observe classified satellites - I also collect the uniform patches relating to their launch, mission, and the associated military units.

Recently I obtained the patch pictured above. The seller listed it as "space related" but without more information.

I bought it because I had a hunch it could perhaps be related to NAVSPASUR. This because of the theme of what at first sight appears to be a sailor (but on second sight could be a hamburger flipper as well...) in a southern US desert (Saguaro cactus) looking at the sky, and the "stare" (NAVSPASUR is/was a Radar "fence", i.e. a staring radar, not a tracking radar). I could be completely wrong though.

Googling for "Operation Vigilant Stare" does not yield any result. If anyone has more information regarding this patch, please drop me a note at sattrackcam * wanadoo dot nl (replace the * with an @).

Monday, 3 January 2011

PAN (no longer drifting) on January 2nd 2011

As I discovered on December 8th 2010 (see here), PAN had started to drift away from it's old position at 38.0 E on 2010 December 1st (see here).

Greg Roberts in South Africa and me in the Netherlands followed it drifting eastwards at a rate of about 0.5 degrees/day over mid-December 2010. I dropped out of the chase after December 14th, when a long period of wintery weather with snow started in the Netherlands.

On December 27th, Greg failed to recover it at the position projected by the drift rate and surmissed it had stopped drifting. He confirmed this on December 29th, when he found it in position 49.0 E. It has stayed in that stable position since.

Below diagram shows that it reached that position at 2010 December 24.2:

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Yesterday evening (2 January 2011) I managed to image PAN in it's new 49.0 E position during a short period of clearings:

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I am happy the drift has stopped, as PAN otherwise would have slowly drifted out of my reach. In it's new position, it is lower and more to the northeast in the sky for me: actually it is now quite low at an altitude of only 17.9 degrees (just above tree-top and roof-top level for my locality), 5 degrees lower in altitude and 11.3 degrees more eastward in azimuth than it was in November 2010.

Below diagram shows the change in azimuth and altitude between late November 2010 (right) and now (left).

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Summary of 2010 observations

The year has come to an end, and it is time to present the summary of observations conducted the past year.

2010 was a good year. A total of 1074 positions were determined on a total of 121 objects, on 78 observing nights. A total of 918 positions on 39 objects of these concerned classified objects.

The diagram below shows the breakdown of the number of observing nights and number of determined satellite positions per month over 2010:

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In August and November, I travelled abroad for part of the month and during those periods could not observe. October and the second half of December had very bad weather.

The diagram below shows, just for fun, all gathered positions on an RA/Dec map:

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This was the first year I added geostationary objects to my observing program: these show up well as lines of positions near declination -7 degrees.

Lists of objects observed in 2010 (click lists to enlarge):

Additional observations not included in the special interest table are observations on the flashing pattern of the Iridium 33 wreckage.